Russia has called allegations that its forces executed civilians in Bucha a “monstrous forgery” aimed at denigrating its army.
Moscow has denied targeting civilians since invading Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what it calls a “special military operation” to demilitarise and “denazify” its neighbour.
Ukraine and Western supporters call that a pretext for an unprovoked invasion that has displaced a quarter of the population and killed or injured thousands.
Ukrainian officials have in recent days urged civilians to flee eastern areas ahead of an expected attempt by Russian forces to gain full control of Donetsk and neighbouring Luhansk, both partly held by Moscow-backed separatists since 2014.
The Kremlin said on Friday the “special operation” could end in the “foreseeable future” with its aims being achieved with work by the Russian military and peace negotiators.
Russian forces have however failed to take any major cities so far, confronted by unexpectedly strong Ukrainian resistance and dogged by what Western intelligence officials say have been logistical, supply and morale problems.
RECOVERING FROM OCCUPATION
Kyiv has called on its allies for deliveries of more, heavier weapons needed to respond and on Thursday secured a new commitment from the NATO alliance to supply a wide range of weapons.
Britain would send Ukraine a further 100 million pounds ($130 million) of military support, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday, and defence sources in Prague said the Czech Republic had delivered tanks, rocket launchers, howitzers and infantry fighting vehicles and would ship more.
Ukraine’s military general staff said on Friday that Russian troops were focused on capturing the besieged southeastern port of Mariupol, fighting near the eastern city of Izyum and breakthroughs by Ukrainian forces near Donetsk.
Residents of areas north of Kyiv were meanwhile still coming to terms with the month-long occupation.
In the village of Yahidne, residents recounted how more than 300 people were trapped for weeks in a school basement, with names of those who did not survive or were killed by soldiers scrawled on the wall.
Reuters was not able to verify independently the villagers’ accounts. Reporters saw one freshly dug grave and two bodies wrapped in white plastic sheets.
Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, said authorities had found 650 bodies, 40 of them children, in the Kyiv region.
The West has imposed more sanctions on Russia since the images surfaced, with Washington sanctioning top Russian lenders and President Vladimir Putin’s daughters, a move echoed by Britain on Friday, while the EU banned nearly 20 billion euros worth of trade, including Russian coal.
Zelenskiy has urged Brussels to also ban Russian oil and gas. Borrell said a potential oil ban would be discussed on Monday in Brussels, but called oil sanctions “a big elephant in the room” given concerns over its impact on Europe’s economy and its consumers.